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A Quick Look at the Twins Offense, by "Component"

So far in the 2011 season, this pretty much sums up the offensive performance.
So far in the 2011 season, this pretty much sums up the offensive performance.

By now, we all know the Twins offense has gotten off to a poor start, worst in the Majors scoring runs. At a glance, we see that a lack of power (5 home runs, .084 ISO, worst in MLB) and patience (6.1% walk rate, also lowest in MLB) are obvious culprits. But there are other underlying issues with the offense, and I find it helpful to take a look at the four "components" of run scoring that I introduced in this year's Maple Street Press Twins Annual. Basically, I used my "Total Run Accounting" expected runs (ExR) approach and broke out into separate components based on batted ball type (as determined by MLB Gameday) and other outcomes:

  1. Discipline: ExR gained or lost due to strikeouts and walks, i.e., the ball is not put into play.
  2. Power: ExR gained or lost due to fly balls, including pop flies.
  3. Contact: ExR gained or lost due to ground balls, line drives and bunts.
  4. Running: ExR due to base running, including stolen bases and extra bases (e.g., going from first to third).

From an overall run scoring standpoint, through Sunday's games, the Twins offense managed a total of -24.8 runs, fewest in MLB. After the jump, I will break down the Twins runs by component and compare to 2010 totals. We will see that not only has the Twins offense failed to hit the long ball and take walks, but all aspects of the offense have suffered.

Broken down by component, looking at runs above average in each area, we can compare to 2010 totals below.

ExR (Total)
Disc (RAA)
Power (RAA)
Contact (RAA)
Running (RAA)

Note that the total RAA by component doesn't add up to the total ExR. This is because, for "apples to apples" comparisons across seasons, I have used the same expected runs matrix I generated from the 2008 season. And the 2008 season had a lot more run scoring (43 runs more, on average) across MLB than we saw in 2010. Because each of the RAA totals above are compared to MLB average within that component, one would expect a 30-40 run difference compared to total.

Since all of the RAA totals for 2011 are for less than one-tenth of a season, it can be more helpful to create a weighted on base average (wOBA) type of rate statistic, centered at .330 (roughly the average between 2008 and 2010), that allows us to project runs scored based on number of plate appearances. Using the above ExR and RAA numbers, we get the following:


As the table shows, offensive production has taken a nosedive in all areas, especially power and discipline components. While much of the 84 point dropoff in power is due to a lack of home runs per fly ball hit (3.2% HR/FB, easily lowest in MLB), the Twins also have not been helped by hitting the most pop flies (44) in all of baseball, more than 14 above the league average. The 31 point drop in runs due to discipline is primarily due to a steep drop in walk rate (6.1%, lowest in MLB), down from 8.9% (7th in MLB) a year ago. Strikeouts have also increased this season, up to 18.5% (7th lowest in MLB) from 17.4% (3rd lowest in MLB) last season. On the "contact" side, the Twins line drive rate has plummeted from 18.6% (10th in MLB) a year ago down to 16.5% (22nd in MLB) this season. Twins hitters have also seen a drop in BABIP on ground balls this season (.207, down from .221 a year ago), and whether this is due to luck, softly hit gorund balls, or less speed to beat out base hits, it contributes to a 21 point drop in the "contact" area.

In conclusion, we see that all aspects of the Twins offense, not just power and ability to draw walks, have opened the 2011 season in a slump. Once Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are healthy, given their track records and those of Jim Thome, Denard Span, etc, I expect to see the power and discipline return. I'll revisit this analysis in a couple months to see where the Twins stand, hopefully by that point we'll find the Twins atop the AL Central Division and scoring over five runs a game!